‘From Yard’ actor revisits drama about antiquated perceptions

Yolande Leger and James Duke Walker.
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce

Jamaican playwright/director David Heron is making goliath strides in remounting “Against His Will,” a dramatic production in New York.

First staged in his homeland, the engaging presentation is bound to enhance the profile of Caribbean theater here but more than anything the dramatization also exposes hypocrisy and long-held double standards regarding gender.

Can a woman rape a man?

Is infidelity always excusable?

What is considered appropriate conversation in the workplace?

Does status permit promiscuity?

Does colorism factor in determining guilt or innocence?

Does power provide a green light to privilege?

Does society and status enable behavior and morality?

Does media influence prevalent public opinion?

In an artfully scripted drama, the current star attraction to the television series “From Yard” addresses a topic nine thespians gingerly execute while confronting topics related to gender, race, class, peer pressure, hypocrisy and other issues that often elude the mindset of the most conscientious Caribbean national.

Heron does not act any of the characters, he scripts and directs the poignant roles, which begins with a private conversation between a couple Daniel Bryan (James Duke Walker) and his pregnant wife Heather (Pascale Armand) and culminates in a public trial in a courtroom.

Traversing from location scenes in bedrooms, the workplace, a media house, a court room, and other locales, Heron tests societal mores while posing queries about each citizen’s biases.

Ironically, a test audience found themselves with the same dilemma recently during a reading at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s City Center Stage II.

Acting as judge and jury to decide a verdict, more than a few were convinced the outcome met criteria beyond a shadow of doubt.

Throughout a mock trial the invited crowd — of diverse representation — vociferously expressed opinions that invoked laughter, disdain or agreement.

Haitian national Yolande Leger (left) with Tony award nominee Haitian actress Pascale Armand.
Haitian national Yolande Leger (left) with Tony award nominee Haitian actress Pascale Armand.
hoto by Vinette K Pryce

Haitian national Yolande Leger said “this story is like real life, only more real than like life.”

Her perception was not unlike those of Jamaicans who expressed a particular affinity to the storyline.

Many shared a common belief.

Heron’s outcome is not quite as predictable.

Actor Malik Yoba is invested in the production.

He said in 2021 when he read the script he knew he wanted to be one of the producers.

According to the actor what attracted him to the production was “it wasn’t no gunman thing.”

He added that “Against His Will” typifies Caribbean culture.

Ironically, the play deserves more than a reading, it merits full spotlight and aficionados who will comprehend the vernacular, topic and sincerity Heron applies to his craft.

James Duke Walker delivers a convincing portrayal as Daniel Bryan.

Haitian native Pascale Armand is no less dynamic in her role as his wife.

And Miranda Melhado, Brad Fraizer, and Zainab Jah are the standouts to the cast.

Karl O’Brian, an acclaimed playwright and actor forms part of the ensemble with Carlene Taylor, and Diane Dixon and when Teisha Duncan steps up to read, laughter hushes with echoes of “here comes the judge.”

Heron must be applauded for integrating theatrical drama with a Caribbean reality.

Recently nominated Best Supporting Performer for the 2023 Broadway World Rhode Island Award for his role as Caliban in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” Heron’s portrayal during the annual Shakespeare in the Park festival garnered critical acclaim last summer at the Wilcox Park in Westerly, Rhode Island.

The classic received 17 nominations in various categories which can be voted online at Broadwayworld.com

Voting will end on Dec. 31 and winners will be announced in January.

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